Book Review: The Exit by Helen Fitzgerald

The ExitWhat’s it about?

23-year-old Catherine is mainly interested in Facebook and flirting, but she reluctantly takes a job at a local care home after her mother puts her foot down – and soon discovers that her new workplace contains many secrets.

One of the residents at the home, 82-year-old Rose, is convinced that something sinister is going on in Room 7 and that her own life is under threat. But Rose has dementia – so what does she actually know, and who would believe her anyway?

As Catherine starts investigating Rose’s allegations, terrible revelations surface about everyone involved. Can Catherine find out what’s really going on before it’s too late?

My thoughts

This is the first novel by Helen Fitzgerald that I’ve read and I’m sure it won’t be the last. With an opening chapter title of Four weeks prior to death it had my interest sparked from the beginning.

Young, immature Catherine is in need of a proper job when she manages to land one in a care home. At home, Catherine is dictated to by her mum’s lists that she will soon come to love and the structure and reliability they hold for her.

“My mum gave me my first ‘Sunday List’ when I was five.”

On her shifts she gets to know Rose who’s suffering from dementia and who wanders in and out of lucidness and time. Rose has had a very successful career as a children’s author and illustrator but is haunted by a family tragedy from her childhood which comes out in her dementia moments when she’s back in her past. So the story is told in turn by Catherine in the present and Rose in the past aged 10 and in the present aged 82 and together they try to discover what’s happening across the hall in room 7.

The story often swaps between them chapter by chapter or paragraph by paragraph but isn’t confusing to follow; it’s giving you snippets of each of their lives bit by bit, unravelling little by little to keep you reading.

With some deeply moving scenes and sadness at times this book’ll have you reaching for the tissues and in the next breath holding on to the edge of your seat.  The plot moves along at quite a steady pace, till the point where we know Rose holds the key to what’s really going on in room 7 and it’s left to Catherine to find out before it’s too late. The last few chapters had me so gripped I couldn’t leave it, I had to finish it which gave me a very late nights reading that night. However, I have to say the ending’s very wierd and dark which might not be to everyone’s taste.

Many thanks to Sophie at Faber & Faber for sending me a copy.

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